The word keeps popping up in readers’ e-mails, in everyday conversation and on talk shows. Teenagers especially are addicted.
I’ve always thought of cool as a weather condition somewhere between hot and cold.
But then I’m not “cool,” in the present-day sense of the word.
The online dictionary lists six definitions of “cool,” including “informal, fashionable attractive or impressive.” Example: “I always wore sunglasses to look cool.”
If someone discovered a five-legged, blue-eyed bullfrog in Death Valley with the temperature at 134 degrees (world record) you can be sure that some bystander would murmur in awe, “Cool!”
I recall one of the few periods in my life when I felt “cool.”
It was while I was on my first job in Burlington. An automobile dealership next door to the newspaper had on display the most beautiful car I’ve ever seen: a 1957 Carolina blue and white hardtop convertible.
This was no ordinary convertible. The push of a single button activated a dozen small motors that simultaneously went into action.
The car’s steel top would unhinge and fold itself. The trunk lid would open, and the top would disappear into it. The trunk lid would then close. All this occurred within a few seconds.
After weeks of coveting that car, I went to the bank and emptied my small savings account. I took the money and my secondhand Jeep to the car dealer and drove home in the car of my dreams.
I loved that car. When I would pull over to the side of the highway or street to let the top up or down, motorists would pull in behind me to watch the action and give me the high sign as they drove away. Talk about feeling “cool”!
Once, at The Raleigh Times, fellow employee Alton Lee Thorpe asked if he could drive my car to his house and give it a good wash job. I consented.
That afternoon, I was covering a city council meeting at City Hall on Fayetteville Street when I heard a horn blaring and loud cheering and laughter. I glanced out the window to see Alton driving my convertible loaded with five or six girls he’d picked up at nearby Ligon High for a joy ride. “Cool” indeed!
Longtime friend, Bruce Ham, chief development officer at the Raleigh YMCA, thought he was “cool” until he went to San Diego for a convention.
“It’s a really ‘cool’ place – with really ‘cool’ people,” he wrote in an e-mail. “And I thought I was kinda ‘cool’! After going there, I discovered I am not. I am so, so not ‘cool.’
“There was lots to see and do. Skimpy clothes. Lots of body art. Piercings galore. I’m good with all that. I actually find it interesting to observe different kinds of people.
“What I didn’t expect was a female bathroom attendant in the men’s john!
“Yet there she was – tending the sink. She was doing a great job of tending. She’d pump the soap right into your hand and have a towel ready when you finished rinsing.
“When I approached the urinal, a young dude on my right and she on my left, I thought to myself, ‘You ain’t in Raleigh anymore.’ Her phone rang; she answered. The line of full bladders was growing outside the door.
“I tried to concentrate, because I really needed to go. But I couldn’t. This was simply too much for this simpleton. I walked out as full as I’d entered.
“My father accepted women deacons in our church, and he was not raised with that mentality. Perhaps I, too, will warm up to this idea.”
How do you identify “cool” people?
By their clothes? By the way a guy jauntily wears his hat? By someone’s swagger? A woman’s hemline level? How low-cut her blouse? The color of her lipstick? The height of her heels?
How many “cool” friends do you have?
Is our president “cool”? He seemed to be at one time. Now, after being pecked relentlessly by what he perceives as a persistently critical press, he seems more bewildered than “cool.” Bill Clinton was considered “cool,” despite his “uncool’’ reputation for womanizing, etc. Barack Obama was unobtrusively “cool” in a more reserved, classical manner. Calvin Coolidge, for whom I was named, was the most “uncool” of all our presidents.
So, dear readers, take a few moments sometime to recall and relive some of the “cool” moments in your life. You may enjoy the experience. Meanwhile, stay cool. Summer’s upon us!